System administration in WebSphere Application Server V8.5, Part 1: An overview of new administrative features and enhancements

This series of articles offers a comprehensive view of the system administration enhancements in IBM® WebSphere® Application Server V8.5, beginning with this overview of the new system management features. Details further explaining each major feature will be presented in subsequent articles. This content is part of the IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal.

Michael Cheng (mcheng@us.ibm.com), Senior Software Engineer, IBM

Author photoMichael Cheng has been a contributor to IBM middleware technology for over a decade, ranging from Object Request Broker, Enterprise Java Beans, web services, and system management. Michael is currently the release architect for WebSphere Application Server.



20 June 2012

Also available in Chinese Japanese

Introduction

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This is the first in a series of articles that describe some of the major system administration enhancements in IBM WebSphere Application Server V8.5. To help you become familiar with these new features, this article offers a high level overview of what system administrators can expect with this major new release.

WebSphere Application Server V8.5 includes many new features and enhancements. The most notable new feature might be the introduction of a new lightweight application server profile, called the Liberty profile, which differs from the WebSphere Application Server V8.0 full profile with its small disk and memory footprint, and in the way it is installed and configured. For this new profile, the focus for system administration is to support deployment to test and production environments. For the full profile, new administration features include the merging of IBM WebSphere Virtual Enterprise features with WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment, support for multiple Java™ SDK versions, auditing of configuration changes, and enhanced support for logging and tracing.

Because these articles focus primarily on managing the WebSphere topology, familiarity with the WebSphere Application Server system management infrastructure is assumed. See Resources for more information.


Major system admin enhancements

Liberty profile server administration

The new Liberty profile is a lightweight, flexible, and dynamic profile. These features make it very developer friendly:

  • Option to download a JAR archive instead having to go through installation via the IBM Installation Manager.
  • Small download size of less than 50 MB.
  • Small memory footprint of less than 60 MB when using just web features.
  • Very fast server start time of less than 5 seconds.
  • Simplified XML configuration.
  • Updates to the server configuration or applications take effect without having to restart the server.
  • Support for any Java SDK at 1.6 or higher -- including support for Macintosh -- for development.

A sample configuration file is shown in Listing 1.

Listing 1
<server>
   <featureManager>
      <feature>jsp-2.2</feature>
      <feature>jdbc-4.0</feature>
   </featureManager>

<include location=”/opt/global.xml” />
<logging trace.specification=”webcontainer=all=enabled:*=info=enabled” />

<application type="war" id="tradelite" name="tradelite"
location="tradelite.war" />

<dataSource id=“tds" jndiName="jdbc/TradeDataSource"
databaseName="${server.config.dir}/tradedb"/>
</server>

By declaring the features to be included by the feature manager, the application server loads only the bundles needed to run the application. Each application server can be customized with a different set of minimum features required to run its applications. The configuration is designed with the idea of configuration by exception in mind. This drastically reduces the size of the configuration file; only non-default values need to be specified. You could also include other configuration files via an include element.

For developers, the WebSphere Application Server Developer Tools, a free Eclipse plugin, is available to develop applications for Liberty profile servers.

For administrators, several options are available for deploying applications developed using the Liberty profile server for test or production:

  • Deploying to the full WebSphere Application Server profile using the existing tooling already in place.
  • Manually deploying the Liberty profile server's runtime, Java SDK, server configuration, and applications.
  • Creating compressed (.zip) files that contain the Liberty profile server's runtime, Java SDK, server configuration, and applications, and deploying through new jobs that are available in the Job Manager.

The latter two options of directly deploying the Liberty profile server offers the the same advantages as the development environment, including a smaller footprint, flexible configuration, and direct deployment through ZIP files without having to go through formal installation.

There are several options available for packaging the Liberty profile server artifacts for deployment:

  • Use a ZIP file that contains the Liberty profile binary, a Java SDK, server configuration, and application binaries. This gives the developer or the packager of the ZIP archive complete control over which version of each artifacts to use during deployment.
  • Use a ZIP archive that contains just the Liberty profile server binary, server.xml, and applications. In this case, the Java SDK or the operating system could already be pre-installed with a supported Java SDK.
  • Use a ZIP archive that contains just the server.xml and applications. In this case, the administrator has pre-installed and provided support for a limited number of Java SDK versions or Liberty profile binaries.
  • Install an application just once read-only, to be shared by different stages of the environment. In this case, the application is packaged in a ZIP archive to be installed just once, and the server.xml file is then installed separately.
  • Use a shared disk to install any common artifact just once, such as a Java SDK, Liberty profile binary, or application binaries. Once installed, the artifact can be shared by all servers running across multiple hosts. This is not recommended for a production environment due to the potential for shared disk failure, which could disrupt the entire production environment.

Centralized Installation Manager

The Centralized Installation Manager was added to WebSphere Application Server V8.0 to enable you to manage all installation-related tasks. From either the job manager or the deployment manager, you can submit jobs to install the IBM Installation Manager, install any product installable via the IBM Installation Manager, and manage profiles. The built-in resource query function lets you view what is installed in the environment, and additional jobs enable you to copy files (such as log files) to the job manager or execute remote commands.

The Centralized Installation Manager is the subject of Part 2 in this series.

Merging Virtual Enterprise with Network Deployment

IBM WebSphere Virtual Enterprise has been merged with WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment. That means that along with WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment V8.5, you now get all the features and functions that were previously included in the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise product at no additional charge.

The foundation of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise is intelligent management, which includes these functions:

  • Application edition management supports rolling out new editions of an application without outage, rolling out applications with multiple rollout policies -- including running multiple editions -- concurrently, and a validation mode that enables an application to be tested first in its own sandbox.
  • Health management that enables you to proactively take actions based on health conditions before the server hangs or crashes, increasing the availability of your applications.
  • Dynamic clustering that enables you to run more applications with fewer hardware resources by dynamically adjusting the number of JVMs to run applications, based on their service level agreements with regard to priority and response time.

Additional functions include a backup deployment manager (that lets you keep a standby deployment manager in case the primary deployment manager fails), extended repository service (for tracking changes made to the configuration repository), and the ability to manage non-WebSphere application servers. Complete coverage of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise features is beyond the scope of this series, but you'll find more information in Resources.

Auditing configuration updates

The new administrative audit feature enables you to keep track of changes to the configuration. Leveraging the security audit feature from WebSphere Application Server V7.0, a new audit record is generated on every configuration save that indicates:

  • Who made the change.
  • When the change was made.
  • Name of the delta checkpoint.

A delta checkpoint (a function of the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise extended repository service, now part of WebSphere Application Server) stores a copy of the configuration repository files that are to be changed during a save to the repository. Each successive save creates a new delta checkpoint, enabling you to track the history of the configuration repository changes at the file level. New extraction commands added in V8.5 enable you to extract a ZIP file containing the before and after versions of the changed files for a delta checkpoint in separate directories. You can then compare the differences in the files to determine what has changed in the configuration.

Pluggable Java SDK

WebSphere Application Server V8.5 is installed with Java SDK 1.6. Post-installation, administrators can optionally install Java SDK 1.7. You can switch between Java SDK 1.6 and Java SDK 1.7, if desired. In addition, you can also switch between 32-bit and 64-bit SDKs in the same profile on iSeries® and z/OS® operating systems.

You can switch the Java SDK for these scenarios:

  • Default SDK to be used for new profiles.
  • Default SDK for a node.
  • SDK for an application server.
  • SDK for a cluster.
  • SDK for command line tools.

Logging and tracing

The high performance logging (HPL) feature was introduced in WebSphere Application Server V8.0 to increase the performance of the logging and tracing functions. By using a binary format, it performs much faster than the previous text-based file format. In addition, it works uniformly across all platforms, including z/OS. In V8.5, HPL is further enhanced with the capability to add arbitrary name/value properties to the output. By default, the appName property is added automatically to track the name of the Java EE application. You can also add additional properties via a new service provider interface (SPI).

The Cross Component Tract (XCT) is a new function in WebSphere Application Server V8.5 that enables you to track a request as it jumps across threads and processes. When enabled, a unique request ID property is used to identify the request. A new XCT log viewer, available through the IBM Support Assistant, enables you to aggregate multiple log and trace files into a single view, showing you the progression of a request across different threads and processes. XCT also offers an SPI that lets you store additional data in the trace output to aid debugging. For example, the actual message being processed in a JMS request might be associated with XCT. XCT curently supports HTTP and JMS protocols.


Conclusion

Of course, these aren't all the new features you'll find in WebSphere Application Server V8.5, but these are the major topics that will be detailed further in subsequent articles in this series.

Next up, find out more about the Centralized Installation Manager in Part 2.

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